A Brief Look into Vitreous Enamel

… and Where It All Began

This has also been deemed “porcelain enamel.” Basically, what a person does is fuse together powdered glass. It’s usually done by firing the elements into a fire of no more than 1500 degrees Fahrenheit. While this sort of thing has often been only left for metal work, it’s also been used to “paint” designs and layers onto enameled glass, ceramics and metal. The word has its origin in the German word “smelzan” and it basically means to “smelt.”

Where Did It All Begin?

The Persians first began using it during the Sasanian Empire from 224 to 651 A.D. The craftsmen called it Meenakari. The design of an object was embellished with beautiful colors. Therefore, metal oxides were mixed into the powered glass. The technique also begins to catch on in Egypt and India and with the Greeks, Celts, Chinese and the Georgians. Romans used it during their time to paint images on their glassware, as did others of their class.

It continued on for over 300 years. As it continued and more people started to use it, it began to change more. It still kept the original core production, but different players came into the game. Each of them thinking of ways to take it to the next level.

Spread of New Techniques

In Europe, enameled products became popular during the Middle Ages. They often used the cloisonné enamel which came from the Byzantine and Late Roman period. Therefore, compartments were added and filled with enamel in different colors. These compartments were made of thin strips of gold, silver or other metals.

When it came to the Chinese using it up to the 14th century they really began to make thing explode. One of the best representations of Vitreous Enamel is through Ming Dynasty, during the time of Jingtai Emperor with one of the most profound examples, though even this is hard to find.

Because of its beautiful colored, vitreous enamel was also used for jewelries, e.g. during the Art Nouveau period by the Russian jeweler, Peter Carl Fabergé, designing his famous eggs.

Commercial and Industrial Pathways

It finally made its way into the commercial and industrial pathways in 1850. By then, it was no longer considered just a Roman Period thing. By the time the 19th century came around, the Chinese had really taken things with full force.

They have started using high-powered technology and combining the two. Take a look at some of what they do now. It’s definitely not your Roman influence anymore, things have changed.

From the 19th century on, it was also used in Germany, Austria and other countries for commercial products such as dishes made of iron and aluminum. And it’s still going strong today.